Not For Turning – The Life of Margaret Thatcher

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Not For Turning – The Life of Margaret Thatcher
By Robin Harris
Bantam Press – £13.99

”For her, Churchill was the embodiment of British fighting spirit, indeed of all the quintessentially British virtues. The veneration she nurtured as a young girl for the great war leader was nothing remarkable. But what was extraordinary, and sometimes a little embarrassing, was that she never grew out of it. As a young would-be politician she was heard to be referring to him as ‘Winston,’ a habit which she always continued, despite the fact that it opened her up to ridicule. This quasi-familiarity did not reflect any sense that she should be ranked as his political equal – far from it.”

The tonality of Not For Turning – The Life of Margaret Thatcher is such that author Robin Harris will write something, and almost immediately after having written it, invariably apologize for it. Might this be due to the fact that for many years, he was Mrs. Thatcher’s close adviser and speechwriter – not to mention instrumental in the compilation of both volumes of her autobiography?

Indeed, as the whip-lash, spiritual trajectory of the so-called Iron Lady’s indelible influence, inexorably cascades amid the total, non-irony of these 450 pages, it’s easy to both ascertain and understandable as to why the former Prime Minister and Harris worked so closely together. As a mere few chapters into this book, one gets the (total) impression that whenever Mrs. Thatcher might have said or advocated something, it was Harris’s job to present it in such a way that was idiosyncratically acceptable upon the (Thatcherite) alter of both believers and non-believers alike.

Hence, the above opening quote from the chapter, ‘The Impact Of Grantham,’ wherein the author also writes of religiosity and morality; the latter of which, many people might still believe is in stark, questionable contrast, to that of Margaret Thatcher’s nigh resolute absolutism.

But here again, Harris leaps forth to placate any remote propensity towards moral disdain: ”She did not seem to feel any obligation to forgive. In a sense, this was refreshing, because she did not profess to be better than she was. And in practice she did not hold grudges to the extent that many other politicians did. But she would state as a matter of fact that she did not forgive, for example, Michael Heseltine for what he had done to her. The contrast between this attitude and the fact that she was not, by and large, a bitter person, given all the adversaries she faced during her career, suggests that she had really just misunderstood the concept of forgiveness itself, believing that it involved feelings rather than intentions. If so, that indicates how little Christian doctrine she absorbed for one who grew up in such a strikingly devout household.”

That Harris can actually write that Thatcher was ”not, by and large, a bitter person,” is horribly patronizing in the extreme.

Try telling that to the many thousands of miners wives – let alone the miners themselves – the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. Try telling that to the many thousands of pensioners who will probably freeze (to almost death) this coming winter, due to her vile, and myopic economic policies of uber privatization.

Even here, Not For Turning, by way of the author, comes replete with set-in-stone, resolute, ready made answers.

After all: ”given all the adversaries she faced during her career, suggests that she had really just misunderstood the concept of forgiveness itself, believing that it involved feelings rather than intentions.”

And as we all know (especially if we’re honest), the whole conceptial idea of ”feelings,” wasn’t something Margaret Thatcher was particularly adept at. Were this pleasant and well-written, albeit disappointingly warped account of Margaret Thatcher’s life to have even remotely addressed this issue, it would have made for far more accurate, beguiling and honst reading.

As is, it’s a mere traipse through the politically obvious, and socially obnoxious.

David Marx

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